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Hours of Freedom:
The Story of the Terezín Composer

The Defiant Requiem Foundation is pleased to announce a new concert-drama created by Murry Sidlin entitled Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer. Showcasing music by fifteen composers imprisoned in Terezín during WWII, Hours of Freedom combines video, performance and narrative to highlight compositions by Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Zikmund Schul, Pavel Haas, Rudolf Karel and ten others. Aware that their lives were fragile and that deportations to the east were a constant reality, Hours of Freedom explores the need to create new music as affirmation of a future. This music was often the last that was composed by these gifted artists – many of whom were in their 20s and 30s when they were murdered. Several were destined to be the next generation of significant Czech composers following in the footsteps of Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček, Martinů and Suk. Some of their compositions reflect the personal eyewitness account of the agony and suffering in Terezín, while others express the assurance of a return to life as it was before the war.

The nine chapters of the concert which include, among others, “The Eyewitness,” “Fate,” “The Broken Heart,” “Longing,” “The Messenger” and “Pure Entertainment,” are presented to highlight the character of each musical work and what it meant to the composer. The compositions to be performed range from solo works, duets, trios and quartets to compositions for nine and thirteen instrumentalists, with four singers and two narrators. Ullmann’s 7th Piano Sonata contains hidden sociological and patriotic messages. The Etude for Strings by Pavel Haas will combine our live string ensemble with the Terezín musicians captured on film in August 1944. Hans Krasa’s songs evoke heart-breaking longing, while Karel Svenk’s Everything is Possible represents the cabaret voice of Terezín from one of Europe’s most imaginative artist/composers. Hours of Freedom continues to explore the themes expressed in the concert-drama Defiant Requiem – the power of the arts to inspire and sustain human dignity, courage, harmony and hope.

The footage in this video was filmed at the performance of Hours of Freedom on May 21, 2017, at the Municipal Riding School in Terezín, Czech Republic.